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Stephen Vestabi is a surgeon who saved thousands of lives from brain damage that changed his personality.

Stephen Vestabi published his memoir in two books: Weak Lives: Life and Death Stories of a Cardiac Surgeon at the Operating Table (2017) and The Razor’s Edge: The Heart and Mind of a Cardiac Surgeon (2019) | Getty Images

Stephen Vestabi has performed surgery on more than 12,000 hearts, and he is estimated to have saved 97% of patients.

That, in itself, is impressive.

But Vestabi, now 73, is also an innovative pioneer, internationally recognized for helping to develop and improve heart tubes, artificial hearts and circulatory support technology for circulating blood throughout the body.

However, he says his career would have been much different had it not been for the one blow he received at 18 years old.

Although he always had his career clear. When he was inspired by a TV show when he was 7, Westte knew what he wanted to do with his life.

After seeing the functioning of the heart-lung machine in the then new BBC medical series Your life is in their hands (Your life is in his hands), I decided to become a heart surgeon.


The illness and tragic death of her loving grandfather confirmed her decision.

“One day we were walking the dog, he grabbed his chest and fell to his knees. About half an hour later he got up and went home,” he said. Program BBC Outlook.

“We do not know if he had a heart attack. Then I saw that he had something else, something else Severe heart failure, which Goes A pathetic balance.

“Finally one day I came home from school and saw the doctor’s car outside my grandfather’s house. I snuck in very quietly and saw my grandfather lying dead in the blue, unable to breathe. “

It was the same grandfather who realized his grandson He had the most valuable talent as a surgeon.

“He realized that I was not on both sides. He taught me to paint and saw that I could draw with both hands.

Although mainly right-handed, he can handle pens, brushes (and ultimately surgical instruments) with both hands.

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That dexterity and unusually precise spatial awareness allowed him to draw well, and there were already two points in favor of him becoming what he wanted to be.

But there was something against it, something very big.


“Surgeons need the right character” Vestabi explained in a newspaper article Daily Mail.

“You have to explain to the relatives who lost their lives. You need to have the courage to free your employer when he or she is tired, the courage to take on responsibility for post-operative care of young children, or the courage to face disasters in the trauma room.

I was a shy, humble, unassuming kid. That I know Scared From him Own shadow.

After all, when he had the opportunity to study at Cambridge, one of the world’s leading universities, he turned it down, thinking he had no place.

During a rugby match, Vestabi was hit in the head and fractured in front of his skull | Getty Images

He chose the Charing Cross Medical School in London, where he thought he might go unnoticed. It was like that. First, his college career was good or bad.

What he did was learn to play rugby, which changed his life.


In 1968, he said, “We went on tour to play rugby. One gray winter day we fought the Cornwall team, they had some very tough players and I was hit in the head, which broke the front bone of my skull. “

“I saw the stars in the locker room, Instead of taking me to the hospital, it wasOneMedical students took me Pub. I drank a lot of pint beer and fainted, and the next day I woke up very ill. “

He is currently being treated at a hospital. Not only did he miss the rugby tour, but it could also have been the end of his medical career.

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But this incident, strangely, had the opposite effect.

“Surgery, for me, is not a job, it is always a must. If I can do it all day and most of the night, I’ll do it. “

“The first night in the hospital, I, that introverted and shy guy, was frolicking with the nurse who was taking care of me.”

When they tried to treat him, he responded aggressively, as he had never done before.

Something has changed.

Without fear

X-rays revealed a small fracture in the anterior bone of the skull.

“The head injury was part of my brain responsible for important rationality and avoiding danger, which explained my new restlessness, my irritability and occasional aggression.

“Psychologists’ tests have shown that I’ve got a high score on something called the ‘Psychopath Personality List’, and the psychologist told me, ‘Don’t worry, most high achievers are psychiatrists, especially surgeons.’

“When the swelling subsided it was expected to return to normal, but fortunately I did not have it.”

The head injury removed his fears and obstacles.

Keith Holmes painting of an alternative valve ready to be placed in the patient’s heart. Two in three hands from Dr. Stephen Vestabi; Third, from co-workers | Getty Images

“Suddenly I became the social secretary of the medical school that organized the hospital dances and soon became the captain of rugby and cricket.”

“I appeared to be immune to stress, became a habitual risk taker, and became addicted to the adrenaline that constantly wanted excitement. In short, I came out of the competition unhindered and mercilessly from a head injury.”

Vestabi now possessed “the full range of skills for a successful surgeon”: coordination, manual dexterity and courage.

“The last thing you want is to be a timid surgeon.”

Mechanical heart

Vestabi lived for the next four decades In the tense zone between life and death, marked by the sound of the heartbeat.

Among other things, he specialized in the complex field of pediatric surgery or pediatric surgery, and developed cardiac surgery without intensive care.

But there was one area that stunned him: the potential of artificial hearts.

Vestabi in a chapter of your life that inspired him at the age of 7

“It can help people with heart failure, but heart transplant surgery is very rare. Someone has to die to give you that organ.”

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I always thought there should be a better solution, a mechanical solution.

But the artificial hearts were too big, too bulky, and too impractical.

“One day in 1993, I met Robert Jarwick, an artificial heart engineer.”

This is the beginning of a partnership that will revolutionize heart surgery.

Jarvik invented a pump to circulate blood throughout the body, but he did not know how to proceed with it. That’s where Dr. Vestaby came in. Together they developed the Jarvik 2000, a small battery-powered turbine.

“The first person to receive the Jarvik 2000 was 59-year-old Peter Houghton.”

Vestabi was told at the Oxford Research Laboratory that the device could only be fitted to a patient who had a lifespan of only a few weeks.

“When I brought him to my office in a wheelchair, his ankle was swollen, his lips were blue, and his stomach was swollen. He remembered my grandfather shortly before he died, so I wanted to help him.

Peter will live 8 more years, longer than anyone with an artificial heart at that time..

Meanwhile, Vestabi became famous not only in medical circles. In 2004 he received a call with an echo of the past.

“They were some TV producers, they wanted to make a plan Your life is in their hands With me “.

“I automatically told them I would be happy to talk to them because it was the show I saw when I was 7 years old.”

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